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30 September 2013

Minister calls for wise investments in housing

Welsh Government press release

Housing Minister, Carl Sargeant today called on housing organisations across Wales to go the extra mile and ensure that every pound of investment in housing is spent wisely.

Speaking at the Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru’s annual symposium the Minister highlighted action the Welsh Government is taking to meet the need for more housing and called on housing associations and local authorities to play their part.

The Minister said ”The Welsh Government is doing all it can to reduce the impact of the austerity measures imposed by the UK Government but, with each year, this is becoming less and less possible.

“I am concerned about the impact of welfare reform. I know that many households are increasingly facing insecurity in terms of their housing, choosing whether to eat or stay warm, or perhaps not able to do either.

“My top priority is to increase the supply of homes across Wales but I know that striking a balance between high standards in building regulations and the impact of our policies on the financial viability of house building schemes is also important.

“In July I announced action on building regulations and fire safety which gives breathing space to the house building industry.

“During the Summer I also looked at options to support buyers struggling to a secure mortgage or purchase an affordable family home. A key part of this will be the launch of a Shared Equity Scheme: Help to Buy Wales later this year.

“This scheme will match the UK Government Help to Buy scheme in helping homebuyers struggling to find a deposit of more than 5% to purchase new build properties and will also include some differences to reflect the housing market in Wales.”

Turning to affordable and social housing, the Minister said despite massive pressure on capital budgets, he is on track to meet the target of delivering 7,500 additional affordable homes and bring 5,000 empty properties back into use and wants to achieve more.

He said “ I have commissioned a Housing Supply Task Force and am continually looking at ways of increasing affordable housing supply using different approaches to financing.

“Last week I launched the Housing Finance Grant scheme. This Welsh Government grant of £4 million a year for 30 years will enable 20 housing associations to borrow more than £120 million so that they can build more than 1,000 new affordable homes across Wales.

“Work is also underway to identify Welsh Government land which could be used for housing. I hope other public bodies will also look at their land holdings and consider whether they could do more to support housing delivery.

“A housing bill addressing issues of supply and quality of homes is also on the horizon. The Bill will modernise the private rented sector, place greater emphasis on preventing people from becoming homeless and allow local authorities to charge a higher rate of council tax on long-term empty homes.

The Minister concluded “It is not acceptable that people in Welsh communities do not have a decent, safe place to live and I would like all housing organisation to ask themselves what more they can do.

“What more can they do to meet housing need and ensure that every pound of housing investment is spent as wisely as possible?

“We must all use the resources we have to best effect to deliver quality homes for Wales.”